LEIXLIP recognised one of Kildare’s most understated and unassuming stars when it named Arsenal and Republic of Ireland footballer, Emma Byrne, as joint winner of its 2013 Sport Civic Awards, writes Henry Bauress.
Tall and elegant, the Arsenal and Republic of Ireland goal keeper, was, due to training stipulations, slightly late arriving at Leixlip House Hotel from the UK last Thursday, 16 March.
A native of the Castletown area of Leixlip, her parents Tim and Laura were at the ceremony to receive her award earlier on her behalf. “She kept winning,” was how Tim summed up her early years as at athlete.
She was only six when she was in the U.8 events.
GAA games with Donal Fallon’s side in primary school, she played with Mick Delaney’s Leixlip side and went on to play for Kildare at all age levels.
In 2012, she was asked to play for the Lilywhite’s but her soccer schedule was too heavy.
A golfer with Lucan Golf Club, she started playing soccer with Leixlip Utd at the age of 12 and was selected for the first ever Republic U.16 girl’s team.
Still only 15, she was drafted into the senior national squad before moving to St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Scouted by Danish professional club, Fortuna Hjioring when 18, she moved to Arsenal at the age of 20.
Town Council chairperson, Cllr. Colm Purcell showed signs of wilting as he read her list of achievements with the Gunners.
They include UEFA Women’s Championship league medal, seven FA Women’s Cups and nine FA Women’s Premier league medals.
Emma has 97 caps for Ireland and the most appearances across Europe for the Women’s Champions League.
She has won Player of the Year twice for Arsenal and twice for Ireland.
According to family, Emma has turned down numerous offers over the past decade to leave Arsenal for possible greener pastures but the unassuming footballer has stuck to her Gunners.
This year will be special for her with wedding plans this summer and a Republic of Ireland football date with Austria in Tallaght on Tuesday, 18 June.